Feb 04 2005

Luiz Avellar, Nico Assumpção, Kiko Freitas: Tocando Victor Assis Brasil



Tocando Victor Assis BrasilThis is an album that serves the memory of two outstanding musicians who passed away much too soon. The first is Victor Assis Brasil, the legendary young Brazilian saxophonist.  Born in 1945 and brother of classical pianist João Carlos Assis Brasil, he conquered the world in Brazil, Europe and the USA with his unique talent on the saxophone. He studied at Berklee and when back in Brazil he recorded albums, participated on various projects, and taught improvisation at the Conservatório Brasileiro de Música in Rio de Janeiro. He passed away at age 35 in 1981.

After this album was released, one of the members of the featured trio passed away. Bassist Antônio Álvaro Assumpção Neto’s untimely death (January 20, 2001) shocked bass players and music lovers throughout the world. Better known as Nico Assumpção, the São Paulo born musician impressed and influenced many music lovers with his unique talent and technique. His participation was an addition to the music on many albums. He not only had a dazzling technique, but also a great set of ears. He literally played the instrument for the use of the music he accompanied, something that is extremely well noticeable here of this album. Recorded live at the Mistura Fina jazz club in Rio de Janeiro (March/April 2000), the music is dedicated to Victor Assis Brasil. He composed all the music on this cd. Including one of his landmarks, “Waltz for Phil,” which he wrote out of adoration for Phil Woods. It’s the perfect start for this album. Luiz Avellar on piano improvises perfectly around the theme, the bass lines are an absolute delight and the drumming (Kiko Freitas) is supportive and hunting. The electric bass solo shows that Nico didn’t use his technique to show off, but he truly improvised with an enormous lyrical sentiment. What he had in mind at that moment was transposed to the instrument immediately. Sometimes you even have the impression that the instrument is talking on its own, so natural sounds the music; a unique talent. Nico was also a fantastic acoustic bass player, but on this album we hear him on the electric instrument. The trio sounds absolutely perfect, jazz in its best form. It’s striking how familiar the themes of the songs sound and how easy they lend themselves to jazz. The music of Victor Assis Brasil could easily be part of a jazz standard book.

Even more beautiful is the bass solo on “Arroio,” built up to a climax, with a little reference to the Ary Barroso’s composition “Na Baixa do Sapateiro”; supported by fiery piano chords and the superb drumming of the young Kiko Freitas (born in 1969, Porto Alegre). Leader of the trio is Luiz Avellar (1956, Rio de Janeiro), a settled name in Brazilian music. He has an impressive discography that includes many big names. On this album he shows some influences by McCoy Tyner in his playing. He studied orchestration at New York’s Mannes College of Music, which helped him develop his skills as an arranger. This trio was very coherent, each member complementing the other in a modest and serving way. There are two guest appearances. A more than impressive one by saxophonist Nivaldo Ornelas, giving “Balada para Nadia” a light Coltrane touch. And guitarist Ricardo Silveira gets a chance to show his jazz chops on “Blues for Mr Saltzman.”  A talent that has been hidden most of the time, since Silveira performs as a musical director for many star singers.

Although meant to be a tribute to the music of Victor Assis Brasil, I’m sure the two remaining members of this trio will agree that de album is also a tribute to one of Brazil’s most talented bassists ever: Nico Assumpção.



Luiz Avellar, Nico Assumpção, Kiko Freitas
Tocando Victor Assis Brasil
Combo Music C-6001 (2000)
Time: 59’40”


All music composed by Victor Assis Brasil.

  1. Waltz for Phil
  2. Arroio (Creek)
  3. Waltzing
  4. Onix
  5. Balada para Nadia – w/ Nivaldo Ornelas
  6. Blues for Mr. Saltzman — w/ Ricardo Silveira
  7. Tema pro Einhorn